Review of ‘The Miller’s Tale’ by Serpent King Games

Written By: Stephen Dove - Nov• 09•13


The Miller’s Tale is Serpent King Game’s eagerly awaited first published adventure for the Dragon Warriors Game; though the adventure is not particularly Legend specific and could be ported to any pseudo-medieval world quite easily. Indeed, GMs of any low magic FRPG could easily re-cast the single stat-block for the adventure’s main villain into their own preferred gaming rules, as this is primarily an investigative adventure that relies upon misdirection and intrigue, rather than combat.

The adventure is a short PDF from DTRPG and retails at $1.99.

WARNING; Contains Spoilers! Do not read if you intend to PLAY this adventure! You have been warned!

The actual adventure is 6 pages long and is essentially a ‘murder mystery’. The cover is by the redoubtable Jon Hodgson, and is as excellent as all of his work tends to be. This cover actually, is one of my favourite of his pieces in fact.

The adventure itself is evocative; a very ‘Dragon Warriors’ offering. It’s  nice to see any adventure that isn’t a dungeon bash, and this one, despite having a fairly simple premise, is rather well conceived.

A miller has recently been slain in the village of Jib’s Hollow and his ghost confronts the PCs and asks them to find his murderer and protect his wife. The latter plea is a fiendish red-herring, as the wife is not in danger from the murderer; she is considering suicide because of all the offers of marriage she it getting from aggressive suitors, looking to take over the mill.

The rest of the scenario revolves around trying to find an undead Sorceror, who has possessed a local Vinter (ale and wine merchant) and is busy going about the country trying to exact revenge on the family of the warrior who slew his original mortal form, hundred of years ago.

Basically, Martin the Miller had ‘second-sight’ and saw that something was wrong with Godfrey the Vinter; this aroused the Sorceror’s ire and got the Miller killed. There are a fair number of NPCs who might be witnesses and/or suspects detailed and the PCs essentially have to work out what is going on.

My ‘beef’ with the adventure is this; Vodenus (The Sorceror) is 7th Rank and is described as a coward. His backstory, though simple is intriguing, but unless the PCs capture him, there is no way they can learn it. I can see from the way this adventure is set up, that the three most likely outcomes are;

a) a TPK (total party kill) because Vodenus is pretty powerful. The tagline says the adventure is for 2nd to 5th Rank PCs and also emphases that the adventure ‘is not a combat adventure’ yet it’s hard to see how the typical group of adventurers could do anything other than try and subdue Vodenus/Godfrey. As there is not really any way for the PCs to discover that they’re dealing with a Sorceror; one lucky Deathlight or Transfix and it could be all over…………….. I would suggest the GM inserts a planned encounter early that alerts the party to the possibility that they may be dealing with a powerful spell-caster. Perhaps a related thread of local animals being ritually slaughtered, suggesting that more something sinister is going on in Jib’s Hollow, than a simple murder.

b) Vodenus is killed. He is a very powerful NPC and if I were in battle with him, I would not want to give him a chance to heal or kill my party. It would be no-holds-barred combat and I doubt he’d survive.

c) Vodenus runs. This is the most intriguing of the options, because the Sorceror then becomes a re-occurring NPC. Now that the PCs have ‘met’ him once, they’ll be ready for this next time and there is a chance they’ll learn of his backstory.

The problem with all of these is that, as said above, the PCs have no way of knowing what on earth happened in Jib’s Hollow at the end of the adventure. I would suggest that the GM place a diary in Vodenus’ laboratory that changes handwriting from that of Godfrey to someone who is obviously different and becomes erratic in tone. It could also be written in a ‘dead’ language to alert the PCs to the idea that this is someone from long ago, and can only later be read, when the denouement with Vodenus is over. I would further suggest that Vodenus would have collected all sorts of notes on the family of the local lord; because that family is the lineage of the warrior who killed him centuries ago and would suggest where he’d go if the PCs decide to pursue him, should he flee.

The GM will also need a map for the adventure. One was not provided because this adventure can be set anywhere, but this could be an annoying oversight.

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